How Important is Kevin Huerter for the Hawks?
Expectations for Kevin Huerter were not exceedingly high at this point last year. Trae Young was the key focal point for the Hawks, and rightfully so; Young is a player worth assembling a team around, no doubt.
Huerter, though, proved a valuable piece for an Atlanta team on the rise. Entering his second year out of the University of Maryland, Huerter will continue to play a key role. Red Velvet Kevin Huerter secured a Second-Team All-Rookie accolade last year, and is a textbook player to complement a brilliant playmaking Trae Young. The Basketball Index rates Huerter in the 90th percentile as a perimeter shooter and in the 80th percentile as a playmaker after shooting 38.5 percent from deep last year.
The Hawks’ shooting guard does have some areas to improve. Despite playing in 75 games last season, Huerter only shot 56 free throws. In addition, Basketball Index has him in the bottom 30th percentile in off-ball movement. This would most likely explain his lower than normal free-throw attempt rate. With the addition of DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish, the Hawks should be able to space the floor out more. How will Huerter redspond?
Something worth noting is that if the Hawks plan to continue to build a team to complement Young, his lack of defense must be compensated for. Huerter already is an above-average defender.. At 6-foot-7, he has the wingspan to compensate for a lack of athleticism and give opponents problems on the perimeter.
Huerter showed real growth during his rookie season, and improved in nearly every statistical category as he developed a better feel for the speed of the NBA. By year’s end, he was averaging around 27 minutes of playing time per game.
Along with Reddish and Hunter, DeAndre Bembry could be in a position battle with Huerter. The Hawks’ backcourt rotation will be interesting, especially down the stretch of close games. While Bembry is a superior defensive specialist, Huerter is the clearly better player on the offensive side.
Even so, it seems as if Huerter will be the best pairing with Trae Young and a key piece in the Hawks’ franchise for quite some time. It is worth noting that Huerter and power forward John Collins were both the 19th overall pick in back-to-back years. Interestingly enough, it would not be a stretch for either of these players to make a serious case for Most Improved Player.
Teams improve marginally based on surrounding their stars with important, supplemental players. Huerter’s skill and upside looks promising and although he is not a Kyle Korver or JJ Redick caliber of player yet, he could prove to be equally as important for Atlanta as they come closer to building a team that could make a run in the postseason.